Each week, Daily Bruin Sports takes a look at the game film for UCLA football and grades each position group on its performance.
This week, we grade UCLA’s 47-30 loss against Arizona.
Josh Rosen was abysmal in Tucson, Arizona.
One doesn’t need to look much further than the stat line to analyze how poorly he played. In fact, this might’ve been the worst game he’s played in his entire UCLA career. The junior quarterback was under 300 yards for the first time this season, completing 20 of 34 attempts for just 219 yards and a whopping three interceptions.
To be fair, the offensive line was no help this game. Rosen was sacked five times and even fell victim to a head-to-head collision, which resulted in the ejection of Arizona defensive lineman Parker Zellers. Watch below.
Still, the highly touted draft prospect made suspect decisions throughout the game, which led to his 20.1 raw QBR. One of the biggest knocks analysts have pegged on Rosen is his never-give-up attitude on extremely difficult throws.
In the clip below, watch him hold on to the ball despite evading initial pressure instead of throwing the ball away – leading to the Wildcat’s fifth sack of the night with five minutes left in the game.
He seemed to have progressed a great deal in his decision-making five games into the season, but Rosen took some serious steps backward in Tucson. Watch him throw off his back foot – again – as the pocket collapses, rather than throwing the ball away, leading to an interception by Wildcats defensive back Jace Whittaker.
It didn’t end there. Whittaker seemed to have Rosen’s number as he intercepted him just a few plays later – this time for a touchdown. The junior corner was in man coverage presnap, and just had to follow the quarterback’s eyes. He watched Rosen lock his sight on redshirt junior receiver Jordan Lasley as soon as the ball was snapped.
Here’s a slowed-down clip of Whittaker reading Rosen and returning the interception for a touchdown.
Rosen did this in the last game as well, throwing an interception to Colorado’s Evan Worthington late in the third quarter. He has to do a better job of throwing off defenders with his eyes. It seems as if Pac-12 defenses have already begun to notice, since Rosen has thrown six picks in his last three games – all against conference opponents.
While his third interception came when the Bruins were already down 17 points with five and a half minutes left, the throw itself displayed a predetermined thought on who the ball was going to. Again, Rosen stared down redshirt senior receiver Darren Andrews from the snap, and Arizona defensive back Dane Cruikshank intercepted the pass.
What made this throw worse was the fact that he threw into double coverage. Watch in the clip below.
Six games into the season, Rosen is exactly halfway into possibly his last year at UCLA. It’s uncertain whether he’ll return for his senior year, but what is certain is that he’ll have to perform better if the Bruins want to even make a bowl game this year, which would mean facing an extremely difficult schedule the rest of the year.
Running backs: B+
This was probably the only group that impressed against the Wildcats on Saturday. All three backs did a solid job running the ball. Junior Soso Jamabo started off the game with lead back duties before fumbling in the first quarter.
Check out the miscue below.
However, Jamabo did muster a nice touchdown run in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 10 with four minutes left. He finished the day with 33 yards on eight carries, and also caught four passes for 53 yards.
Sophomore Jalen Starks got the nod for the majority of the second quarter and displayed a hard-nosed physical style of running. Before leaving the game with an ankle injury, Starks punched in a touchdown and finished his day with 63 yards rushing on 10 attempts.
The real star of the rushing attack, though, was Bolu Olorunfunmi. The junior amassed 102 rushing yards on just 10 carries and managed two touchdowns. He bolstered a long run of 47 yards that he followed up with a four-yard touchdown rush the following play.
Olorunfunmi scored with one minute left in the third quarter, which cut Arizona’s lead to 10. The Bruins were in play to set up a Rosen-led comeback, but the Wildcats’ defense was too much for the offensive line to handle – with two of their five sacks coming in each of Rosen’s last two drives.
Here’s Olorunfunmi’s third quarter score.
This group’s performance is something to build on. If Jamabo and Olorunfunmi can complement each other to create a dynamic running attack, the offense could see more consistency on first and second down efficiency – waning the pressure on Rosen to convert long passes on third.
Wide receivers: C-
With the absence of redshirt sophomore Caleb Wilson for the rest of the season, this unit needed to see some big production from veteran receivers in a Pac-12 south game.
Arizona’s pressure under their 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 schemes clearly stifled Rosen and the receivers.
Redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Wilson saw extended playing time with the absence of Caleb Wilson. He failed to grab any catches and struggled against the Arizona secondary. Watch him get beat by Arizona cornerback Lorenzo Burns.
Fellow tight end and redshirt junior Austin Roberts had just one reception for 28 yards.
Lasley led all receivers with a quiet six catches for 77 yard. Andrews was responsible for a measly four catches on 37 yards receiving. The former was also the culprit of a dropped touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that could have given the Bruins a chance with six minutes left.
Sophomore wide receiver Theo Howard had just three catches for 17 yards and hasn’t been able to get out a slump since his performance at Stanford.
While this has by far been the group’s worst performance this year, they’ll have to make strides from their showing in Tucson, facing one of the fastest defenses in the Pac-12 in Oregon on Saturday.
Offensive line: C-
The offensive line barely received a passing grade, having allowed five sacks as well as eight tackles for loss Saturday night.
Their saving grace was the 102 yards rushing Olorunfunmi put up, giving them a team average of five yards a carry for the game. Still, the rushing attack wasn’t prolific, as the team only ran for 190 yards total.
In terms of pass protection, this was the worst the offensive line has looked all season. What’s really troubling is the fact that the Wildcats didn’t really throw any surprises at the Bruins.
Coming into the matchup, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and coach Jim Mora knew the Wildcats liked to bring pressure and cause confusion with their “bandit” and “spur” hybrid positions. Nonetheless, they had no answer for the constant movement from defensive coordinator Marcel Yates’ unit.
A lot of the pressure was just a result of missed assignments. Watch redshirt freshman guard Michael Alves completely lose Arizona defensive end/linebacker Kylan Wilborn, leading to a sack.
Alves actually had a very tough outing, struggling to pick up blocks against the three-man front. In the clip below, watch him struggle to find a Wildcat insight as senior guard Najee Toran misses his assignment, eventually leading to another sack by Wilborn.
This next clip emphasizes the lack of communication on the offensive line, as both Toran and redshirt junior tackle Kolton Miller commit to the same player, leaving Wilborn free for his third of four sacks in the game.
Despite earning one of the higher grades on the team, this unit has some serious work to do, having struggled all season. On a positive note, the big men up front have undoubtedly improved their run blocking every week this season, already having allowed two backs to rush for 100 yards in a game.
Still, if they want to see more wins, they’ll need to figure out a way to maintain consistency in both pass protection and run blocking.
Defensive line: F
There’s really no excuse for this group.
Even those living under a rock knew that the Wildcats were going to run the ball, and that quarterback Khalil Tate was going to be the recipient of a lot of those touches.
And okay – Tate seems to be an out-of-this-world athlete that might be college football’s next Johnny Manziel or Michael Vick – but that doesn’t excuse this group from allowing 457 yards rushing on an astounding 7.5 yards a carry.
Against a quarterback like Tate, a defense has to be disciplined in its ability to wrap and square up, or else he’ll pick you apart with his agility. Look at redshirt sophomore defensive end Rick Wade whiff at Tate’s pump fake, causing a big run for a first down.
A lot of the explosive plays the line has been giving up this season come down to missed tackles and poor technique. Despite the coaches’ emphasis on tackling for the last three weeks, there seems to be little improvement.
Four Bruins tried to tackle Tate on his 71-yard touchdown run. Honestly, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa should’ve sacked him from the snap of the ball, but missed on an easy opportunity.
Senior defensive back Jaleel Wadood along with fellow seniors, linebacker Kenny Young and defensive lineman Matt Dickerson, all attempted to tackle Tate – but failed to wrap him up. Watch below.
The line also finished the game with zero sacks, one tackle for loss and zero quarterback hurries – earning them a failing grade for this week.
Entering Saturday night, Arizona running back Nick Wilson had failed to rush for more than 87 yards in a game this year. On Saturday night, the senior carried the rock 22 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
While the defensive line definitely attributed to such a lousy performance, the linebacker crew didn’t do much to help themselves.
On goal line situations, the linebackers struggled to push through for short stops. The Arizona offensive line had its way when it came to second-level blocks toward them. In both the clips below, watch junior Josh Woods and Young either miss the read or get blocked by a Wildcat offensive lineman in both goal line situations.
They also struggled in pass coverage, opening up the middle of the field for Tate. UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley opted to play the more athletic Woods and Young, rather than keep three linebackers on the field with sophomore Lokeni Toailoa – who was playing middle linebacker earlier in the season.
The coaching staff also moved Young back to the MIKE spot earlier in the season to give the middle of the field a veteran, yet athletic play caller. He managed 10 tackles in Tucson. Despite this, Tate was too much. Watch him complete a pass right in between Young and Woods for a first down completion.
Defensive backs: C-
The fact that Tate managed to complete 9 of 13 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown toss is pretty remarkable considering he rushed for 230 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Tate completed passes when they counted, and seemed to convert on all of his deep pass attempts.
Freshman corner Darnay Holmes had a tough day, battling Arizona receivers Shun Brown and Tony Ellison all game. Look at him give up a 53-yard reception to Brown on man-to-man coverage.
Junior defensive back Octavius Spencer also fell victim to a big pass play, giving up a 44-yard pass to Ellison – again on man-to-man coverage.
Wadood and redshirt junior safety Adarius Pickett had 10 and 8 tackles, respectively. However, the former also had a misread late in the fourth quarter, giving Tate his only touchdown pass of the game. Watch him react late to Arizona’s Trevor Wood in the end zone, forcing Young to try and batt the pass down.
The secondary, along with the front seven, gave up 605 yards of total offense to the Wildcats, the most given up by a Bruin defense in over a decade. The defense will need to make some major adjustments in the coming weeks if they want to stay alive in a highly contested Pac-12 conference.
Special teams: C+
The only reason this group didn’t receive a B was because of sophomore kicker JJ Molson’s missed field goal. Molson missed his only attempt and converted both his extra points. Redshirt junior punter Stefan Flintoft was the highlight of the unit, averaging 47.3 yards on three punts with a long of 50.
This was Flintoft’s first game on scholarship after receiving one two weeks ago.
Pickett returned one punt for 41 yards and Holmes returned one kick for eight yards to balance out the special teams return yardage. The Bruins held the Wildcats to just 18 yards on their sole kick return, but did not force any Arizona punts.